Tuesday, October 4, 2011

JZN NFL Predictions vs. Spread: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (Week 5, 2011-12)

Cam Newton makes his NFC South debut as the New Orleans Saints come to town in Week 5. Newton has surprised many people including myself. Can he start turning these gaudy statistical numbers into victories?

The early spread on this game is Saints (-6). Here are some of the key aspects of the game and what to watch out for when betting. All lines from Cooper's Pick and Injury Reports from CBS Sports as of October 4, 2011. Always keep yourself updated with injury lines because they’ll unexpectedly change throughout the week.

Current Personal Picks Record (Straights Only)
Carolina Panthers (4-0)
New Orleans (3-1)

Key Injuries
CB Chris Gamble, TE Jeremy Shockey, C Olin Kreutz, OT Zac Strief

Keys to the Game
  • How will Cam Newton respond to Gregg Williams’s blitz schemes?
  • Can the Saints contain Steve Smith?
  • Will Darren Sproles make an impact against the Panthers’ coverage units?
  • Do the Panthers have any chance of containing Drew Brees w/ Sean Payton?
  • The Panthers (2-14 in 2010) almost pulled off the upset in the Louisiana Superdome in their first meeting. Could another close game be in the making?
  • Can the Saints exploit a Panthers’ run defense that is missing Thomas Davis and Jon Beason?
  • Can the Panthers’ defense bait Drew Brees into some interceptions?
  • Which team will protect the football?

The Saints swept the season series last year. The Panthers suffered defeats of 16-14 and 34-3 to a Saints’ team that was a bit inconsistent throughout 2010. This will be Cam Newton’s first divisional game.

For the Panthers to win, they’ll probably need Cam Newton to play shootout with Drew Brees. While the Panthers are 6th in passing yards allow (203 yards per game), they’re also allowing the highest yards per completion (9.0 yards). That’s mainly because their run defense (31st) is allowing over 143 yards per game. Basically, the Panthers can pick their poison: stop the run or stop the pass. Chris Gamble’s concussion isn’t doing them any favors here.

The Saints are banged up on the offensive line. However, the Panthers only have six sacks in four games. Both teams are in the bottom 20 for turnover ratio. I believe that Gregg William’s high-pressure defense could lead to some big-play opportunities for the Panthers’ offense. At the same time, Newton may also get baited into one or two bad throws.

I just can’t see the Panthers outscoring the Saints. Even if they can keep the score down, Brees would win it in the fourth quarter. The Saints have a legitimate shot to reach 8-1 before their Week 10 game with the Atlanta Falcons. They face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2x), Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams after this.

The Panthers have burned me twice on the spread this season after last-minute drives that covered the spread; I had the other team. They’ve done very well with covering the spread this season. I’m giving them that much credit against the Saints.

Final Predictions:
Against the Spread: Carolina Panthers (+6)
Straight:  New Orleans Saints 27, Carolina Panthers 24

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